What is food? Why is it necessary to have food? What would happen if we do not eat food?
Food is a nutritious substance we eat to grow and perform daily chores. For living entities, food is necessary to survive. It nourishes trillions of cells in our body, enables their smooth functioning, accelerates biological processes and helps in proper growth. As much as it is important to have food, having a well-balanced diet is equally important. We call a diet balanced when it contains all the nutrients crucial for our body in the right amount without unnecessary fats.
Food primarily is obtained from plants and animals. Plants are the primary producers in our food pyramid. All organisms directly or indirectly obtain food from plants. Herbivorous animals obtain food from their nearest plant ecosystem. Some animals, on the other hand, obtain food by hunting other animals(carnivorous and omnivorous animals), while others depend on decaying matter of plants and animals and are called decomposers(bacteria, fungi).
Food offers a plethora of variety depending upon climatic conditions and availability of sources in a region. Food habits of an individual depend upon the following factors:
- Physical determinants – Education, Skills
- Biological determinants – Appetite, taste
- Economical determinants – Availability, cost
Why Is Variety In Food Important?
Variety in food ensures that we eat healthy food and find different options so as to maintain a balanced diet while not getting bored with eating. It also ensures that we get all the nutrients that our body requires to function properly. A single food item does not provide with all the required nutrients, even within a particular food group such as fruits and vegetables, the variety of nutrients offered by each is diverse. For example, Spinach has high levels of folate whereas oranges are rich in Vitamin C. Variety also makes sure that we are not loaded with an excess of one nutrient which would be derived by eating a specific type of food item only.
What Are Nutrients?
Nutrients are food molecules essential for the growth and maintenance for the life of entities. Major nutrients in our food are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, etc. These macro and micronutrients are essential in carrying out chemical reactions in our body aiding smooth digestion and hence growth. The food we consume must be rich in its nutritional value and low on unnecessary fats.
Types Of Food
There are five major food groups:
- Fruits – Provides phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, roughage and are easily available. They are directly obtained from plants.
- Vegetables – They are obtained from plants and are high in phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals which form important constituents of our food.
- Dairy products – An excellent source of calcium for our bones and teeth
- Poultry, lean meats, fish, eggs – High in proteins and vitamins which helps in building tissues and muscles and provides immunity.
- Cereal, legumes- Obtained from plants, rich in high fibers.
Q.1. Name a disorder that can be caused in the body due to lack of iron.
Q.2. Can you suggest some food items that a person suffering from Vitamin A deficiency can include in his diet?
A.2. Milk, eggs, liver, fish-liver oils. Fruits, green leafy and yellow/orange vegetables contain beta carotene which is converted by the body into Vitamin A and can be consumed.
Q.3. What is the difference between minerals and vitamins?
A.3. Minerals are inorganic and stick to their chemical structure whereas vitamins are organic in nature and can be disintegrated by air, acid or heat. Hence minerals present in water and soil can easily enter the body through the food we consume through plant and animal sources whereas vitamins found in food can be inactivated due to the storage, cooking, even light exposure to air can cause inactivation as they are weaker compounds.
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